Author's Note: I own none of these characters and this is just for fun.
No one had edited this for me and I am not a native speaker of English, so I apologise in advance for any mistakes.
I really liked the chemistry of these two characters in the film and decided to pursue another view of their relationship. I'm sure this has been done many times, but here's my take on the night after the battle.
"This shawarma, I like it!" Thor exclaimed.
"Yeah, it's pretty good," Banner agreed, taking a hearty bite.
The others said nothing until Hawkeye groaned. "Shit! How long until Fury finds us and insists of a debriefing?"
"We should go to Stark Tower," Tony proposed.
"But he'll definitely find us there," Natasha observed.
"Yeah, he will, but I can set up security protocols that will take him at least twenty-four hours to break," Stark replied smugly.
"Twenty-four hours of sleep sounds good to me," Steve muttered. He sat up in his chair, wincing as the movement pulled at the wound on his side.
Thor looked at him with concern. "You need a healer, my friend."
"Doctors are busy with civilians," Steve brushed off the suggestion.
"I'm not busy," Banner said. "If you trust me."
"You're a teammate, an Avenger," the captain stated. "Of course I trust you."
Barton's eyes dropped to the debris-strewn floor. How could any of them trust him? All of this was at least partially his fault. If only he had been stronger. If somehow he could have fought Loki's mind control.
Romanoff set a warm hand on the leg he had propped on her chair. "Stop it, Clint. Don't think like that."
The archer met her eyes. He tried to find hope in the trust he saw.
Pepper was at the tower looking for Tony. She threw her arms around him and kissed him like no one else was watching. "Are you hurt?" she asked, her eyes carefully studying Stark from head to toe.
"Nah, you know my suit takes the worst of it."
Pepper looked dubious. "Then what's this?" She touched the bloody bruise on his cheek. "Come here, Tony. Let me make sure you're fine." She pulled him towards their private rooms.
"Down that hall," Tony called to the others. "Rooms for everyone. You sort it out!"
"Make yourselves at home!" Pepper added before closing the door behind them.
Banner looked at Steve, who seemed nearly asleep on his feet and half supported by Thor. "Let's see how bad those ribs are, Captain. You, too, Thor. You've got some blood on you. Clint? Natasha?"
Romanoff shook her head. "Only a few cuts I can clean myself."
"I'm fine, Doc," Clint stated.
Banner looked as though he disagreed, but he shrugged and walked down the hall with Steve and Thor. "So, is Asgardian physiology similar to ours?"
"Umm, perhaps?" Thor replied as the door closed behind him.
Romanoff turned to Barton. "Come on, let's get cleaned up."
"Go ahead. I'll be there in a minute."
The minute became several. Then became an hour. Barton looked out at the city. Smoke still rose from some of the damaged buildings. He had killed before. He had killed many times before. It was his job, after all. But he had never killed mindlessly. He had always been able to make his own call. Until Loki.
Barton felt rather than heard Natasha appear behind him. He didn't bother turning.
"Have you seen the doctor?" Romanoff asked.
"Come on. It's me or Banner. Who would you rather have patching you up?" When he did not reply, Natasha threatened, "Don't make me force you."
Clint smiled slightly. She would and he was too tired to fight her. He forced himself to his feet with a soft groan. Natasha took his hand. It was warm and soft, a lifeline to sanity. She led him to the room she had claimed.
After closing the door, Romanoff gestured to a chair. "Sit," she ordered.
Barton sank into the chair obediently. Natasha brought a bowl of warm water, a soft cloth, and a basic medical kit and set them on the small table next to Clint. Unzipping his vest, she said, "Let's get this off so I can see the damage."
Barton winced as the movement pulled at abused flesh.
Tossing the vest aside, Romanoff studied the archer's battered body. Her eyes lingered on a few deep cuts on his shoulder and the deep purple spreading across the left side of his ribs. Clint simply stared at the floor. He was certain he didn't deserve Natasha's tender care… or the friendship of the Avengers. All the destruction outside. All the death. He was responsible.
Clint focused on the pain as Natasha plucked glass from his shoulder with tweezers and disinfected the bleeding wounds with alcohol. He focused on the burn, relished the discomfort. He deserved it, after all he had done. Romanoff taped gauze over the worst cuts, then turned her attention to his ribs, gently probing with knowing hands. Barton sucked in his breath when she hit a particularly tender spot.
The archer shrugged. "I deserve it." His voice was tight with pain.
Clint didn't bother to reply.
Romanoff gripped his chin and forced him to look at her. "You're a mess, Barton."
"I flew through a window."
"I'm not talking about your shoulder," Natasha replied. "Or your ribs, which are certainly cracked, possibly even broken. I'm talking about you feeling sorry for yourself. It doesn't suit you."
"Look outside, Tasha!" Clint exclaimed angrily. "That's my doing!"
"That's Loki's doing!" When Barton's expression clearly showed he did not agree, Romanoff lightly touched some ugly scars on his chest. "Remember how you got these?"
"I try not to."
"Four days of torture," Natasha said. "Four days and you never broke." Her voice softened. "You never betrayed me."
Barton frowned at the painful memories. "I might have broken, if it was anyone but you I was protecting," he admitted.
"The point is, you didn't break. So don't tell me now that you're weak because you couldn't fight some crazy alien mind control. That's bullshit, Clint, and you know it."
Barton did know it. Loki's power was nothing he had been trained or prepared to face. Yet, the guilt persisted.
"I know it will take time to sort out, but don't you ever forget that you are a good man, Clint, a strong man. It's one of the things I love about you." She leaned down and kissed him lightly.
"And you know when to kick some sense into me. It's one of the things I love about you, Natasha." The ghost of a smile crossed Barton's face as he lightly touched the bruise on his head from her 'cognitive recalibration.'
Natasha kissed the sore spot. "It's been a difficult day. Let's get to bed."
"I like the sound of that." Clint flashed his first real smile in days.
"Don't get any ideas. You're in no condition for that," Romanoff vetoed.
While she took off his boots, she insisted, "Tomorrow, the doctor is going to check those ribs. I don't like the look of them."
Hawkeye nodded his agreement. He didn't like the feel of them, either. He couldn't stifle a groan of pain when Natasha helped him out of the chair. He limped the few steps to the bed, then sank onto the soft mattress.
Clint caught Romanoff's hand and pulled her close. "Natasha," his voice was low and serious. "Any other agent would have simply killed me. Thanks for saving my life today."
She met his eyes. "We're partners." Her expression added much more meaning to the word. "We do that for each other."
Clint awoke still wrapped in the comfort of Natasha's arms. Her eyes were on him as she ran her fingers tenderly down his cheek. Only in these very private moments did she lower her defences and show her true feelings. Clint appreciated every moment like that.
"How do you feel?" Romanoff asked.
Barton shifted slightly and groaned as he realised that he hurt everywhere. "I feel like I don't want to move all day."
Natasha's face instantly showed concern. "That bad?"
Tightening his arm around her waist, Clint replied with a smile, "Not just that. We don't get to do this often enough." He kissed her slowly, gently, so she knew his deepest feelings in a way words could never express.
"I hope your ribs heal quickly," Natasha said. "I have plans for you."
"Like what?" Barton asked.
Natasha liked seeing the playfulness that he never showed anyone else. "Like…"
Tony Stark's voice in the hallway interrupted. "Security breach!"
"I am not a security breach," Fury's angry voice replied. "I'm here for your debriefing."
Clint groaned. "Now I really don't want to get out of this bed today."
I hope you enjoyed this little tale. Please leave a review if you get a chance.